The Spectacle Blog

Of Starr and Ashcroft

By on 6.1.06 | 6:32PM

At the White House today to see young Brett Kavanaugh be sworn in as the newest federal appellate judge, in this case the important DC Circuit Court of Appeals, I had the chance to speak to a number of the stars of the conservative legal firmament, and was reminded again just what good and decent people we have on our side -- starting with a real Starr, former judge and independent counsel Kenneth Starr. What a warm and gracious gentleman he is! The media caricature of him as a modern-day Grand Inquisitor is so far off the mark, so almost-criminally unfair and removed from reality, as to condemn that caricature's purveyors (if there is any justice) to at least severe danger of long-term residence in one of the realms (or circles) about which Dante wrote. The truth is that Judge Starr is a great American who took on a very tough job and did his duty with honor and care. Sure, critics can carp that he did not always handle the political side well in what became a sickeningly politicized investigation -- politicized, mind you, not by Starr but by his critics. Kavanaugh himself was cited by the Grand Authority of the WashPost's Bob Woodward as having argued fruitlessly, while an assistant on Starr's Whitewater/etc. counsel team, for alternative means of reporting their findings so as to head off the worst of a political firestorm. Politically speaking, the wise young Kavanaugh was almost certainly right -- but this does not mean that Starr's motives were anything but the purest. Eschewing political considerations is what is usually the "good government" approach to investigations, and Starr felt honor-bound to present the House impeachment investigators with all the relevant facts and proofs. In the end, it was not HIS fault, but that of Gingrich and other House leaders, that the House chose to put all the tawdry details on the Internet.

But I digress: The point is that while Kavanaugh may have disagreed procedurally on that point with Starr, and that while Kavanaugh was FALSELY reported during his recent committee hearing to have criticized Starr (actually, he criticized the decision -- I think it was by Janet Reno -- to continually expand Starr's investigative scope, especially when the indy counsel law itself was suspect), the obvious truth is that Kavanaugh admires and likes Starr enough for Starr to have been invited to, and to attend (all the way from Pepperdine on the West Coast), with his lovely wife, Kavanaugh's swearing in. And for good reason: because Kenneth Starr is a man of deepest integrity and great personal decency. He served as indy counsel at great personal cost and in the face of calumnious attack, yet never lost his kindness and graciousness -- which were, as I noted, in ample display on the White House lawn to those with whom he spoke.

Another great public servant who caught all sorts of spears for the Bush 43 White House, with far too little appreciation, was former Attorney General and former Missouri U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft. He, too, was at the ceremony. He, too, is one heck of a nice guy. Immediately upon being apprised of a mutual friendship (actually, a friend of his who was a top aide of his), Ashcroft launched into a fond and knowing, praise-filled discussion of the remarkable baseball prowess of the friend's eight-year-old son. So very kind and very human -- and so unlike, again, the horrible caricature created by the mainstream media of an uptight, censorious, humorless man.

Well, it says right here that both Starr and Ashcroft deserve this nation's gratitude. Thanks be to them, certainly, from this one redoubt at least.

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